5other Agfa cameras in my collection:


JapanAgfa Selectronic 3 [1980 - 1983?]



red buttonEverybody loves a big red button, and this camera has definitely got a big red button. How can that fail to make you smile? This touchpad-like shutter button was used on most of the company's latter day models, and comprised a round membrane made of red foil, framed with a metal ring. Depending on the camera type, either a mechanical or an electromechanical shutter release button was hidden under the flexible membrane.

Collecting cameras is all about gathering the weird and the wonderful, and this camera is both weird and a little bit wonderful too: meet the Agfa Selectronic 3.

The Selectronics were a series of high priced 35mm cameras aimed at advanced amateurs. The first Selectronic types were two quirky (but quite charming) viewfinder/rangefinder cameras, which featured a big red button, and were a development of the Agfa Optima Sensor models.

Three Selectronic SLRs using the Pentax K lens mount were introduced in 1980. Unlike the earlier German made cameras, the SLR models were made for Agfa by Chinon (Oh Dear!), borrowed from existing Chinon camera designs (Oh No!), and outwardly differed from their counterparts via a more sleek, modern look, plus the Agfa Sensor big red shutter release button.

  • The Selectronic 1 was the basic model, offering TTL metering with manual operation. It was based on the Chinon CM-4.
  • The Selectronic 2 was an automatic (aperture priority) only camera, like the Chinon CA-4.
  • The Selectronic 3 was the top of the range luxury model, and could be switched between manual and automatic modes. It was effectively a Chinon CE-4 variation (but it does not share exactly the same specification).

What the Selectronic 3 offers is a Seiko MFC electromagnetic focal plane shutter with vertical travel and step-less speeds from 8 to 1/1000th sec., on automatic, and 14 conventional stepped speeds in the same range on manual, with both automatic and manual speeds electronically timed. It has a two stage electromagnetic shutter release (half a press activating the meter), and viewfinder central split image with micro-prism collar and ground glass focussing. 16 viewfinder LEDs indicate shutter speeds and over/under exposure. A TTL center weighted open aperture metering system, employing two silicon blue photo cells located on each side of viewfinder, provides aperture priority auto exposure and full match-the-LED manual override, plus a depth of field preview switch, and a multiple exposure switch (and the usual other bits for flash, self-timer, etc).

If the foregoing reads like a bit of a shopping list, that's because I'm trying to make the point this was a fully loaded camera. Sadly, it's all wrapped in a plastic body, but this was the beginning of the 1980s!

I have no idea what the Selectronic 3 cost when new. I can recall other compact Agfa cameras of the 1970s - with a big red button - being pretty expensive, so I guess this was not a cheap camera. However, information on the Selectronic range is extremely scant, and they don't even get an entry in photography magazine check lists of that time (i.e. an at-a-glance table of features and the price band of camera models available).




Lens mount: Pentax K bayonet.

Selectronic viewfinderFocus: Pentaprism with central split image, microprism collar and ground glass, 16 LED's indicate shutter speeds and over/under exposure. In manual mode, the recommended shutter speed LED is lit, while the selected speed LED flashes. Magnification: 0.87 x with 50mm lens set at infinity. Viewfinder coverage 92%. Depth of Field Preview by depressing depth of field lever.

Shutter: Seiko MFC electromagnetic metal blade focal plane shutter with vertical travel. Stepless speeds from 8 to 1/1000 sec. on automatic; 14 set speeds from 8 to 1/1000th, sec. on manual, + "B". Both automatic and manual speeds electronically controlled. Two stage electromagnetic shutter release with safety lock and separate provision for cable release. Electronically controlled self-timer at 5 or 10 seconds with front-of-camera flashing red LED indicator. Two seconds before exposure, flashing frequency of red LED increases. Self-timer can be cancelled even after system has been activated.

Meter: TTL, centre-weighted averaging metering at full aperture using SPD (Silicon Photo Diode) cell. Half way depression of shutter release activates metering system.

Exposure: Auto aperture priority, or match-the-LED manual exposure. No exposure compensation (but it doesn't need one - just switch to manual).

Film Speed: 25 to 3200 ASA with unlock button to change settings.

Flash: Standard X-synch hot shoe at 1/60th

Film Advance: Single stroke in an arc of 130° with 25° stand off. Coupling for motorized film advance with a dedicated power Winder. Multiple Exposure switch disengages film advance and frame counter when to wind crank is operated to prime the shutter.

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via crank and release button.

Size: 135.5 X 85 X 50.5mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 510g.

Battery: Three 1.5V Alkaline batteries (LR44) or 1.5V silver oxide batteries (SR44). Battery test button triggers viewfinder LED indicators.



My Camera

I paid £15.00 for my Agfa Selectronic 3 in August 2015 ... except I didn't! The camera would have originally been sold with a Chinon made Agfa branded lens, which seems to have been a 50mm f/1.4. One reason why I bought this camera was because it came with a Pentax M f/1.7 50mm lens. I wanted this for my Pentax ME Super, and the recent selling prices have been £15 and over (It seems to be the way of eBay - that buying something with an extra you don't want can be cheaper than just buying the thing you want. However, I did actually want everything on this occasion). Anyway, in effect, I bought a lens at a bottom end price, and got the camera body for free.

The second reason was that the Selectronic 3 (and either of the other models) is a bit of a rarity. I'd never seen or heard of it before, but it's a safe bet that a high price point, combined with the lack of an Agfa track record in SLR cameras would have made the Selectronics poor sellers. More than that, I have read that Agfa conspired to limit distribution and fix prices, in an attempt to give the Selectronic an air of exclusivity. What Agfa achieve was obscurity.

My camera is in full working order, and good condition. It came to me very dusty (with every crevice a dull grey colour), and in need of new light seals/mirror damper. The rubber bits are OK, but they're open cell foam, applied to the door, so I suspect they are not original to the camera. It's also got a couple of screws missing from the bottom plate - making it a touch loose.

The Agfa Selectronic 3 is a fairly compact camera, and feels comfortable and familiar to use; I like it a lot, except for the quantity of plastic used in its parts (like the wind crank is plastic, and the leather ... well it doesn't have any ... just more plastic ... but this was the future of camera construction). Plastic cameras are not usually my thing, but the Selectronic 3 is nevertheless a very likeable camera, and quite similar to the Yashica FX-D. For me, it's definitely its obscurity that made it an I want one camera. I might have already mentioned this, but I like that it's got a big red button (or maybe it's orange?). I can feel a bit of an Agfa spending spree coming on!








press cutting

↑ 4th October 1980 edition of Amateur Photographer.